The IDF intends to establish a female-only combat platoon in March, Kan 11 News reported Sunday night. The move follows a request from religious midrashot principals, who said young religious women want to enlist in combat units, but encounter difficulties there on religious grounds. The IDF leadership debated the issue and decided to launch the platoon in one of the mixed battalions in the upcoming recruitment cycle.
The move has been shepherded by Aluma, an association that was established by the Religious Kibbutz movement to “expand the circles of mutual accountability and solidarity among young people in Israel.” The IDF has been absorbing thousands of female graduates of the state religious schools and has been relying on Aluma to help create a supportive environment for them. To that aim, Aluma has arranged introductory events for female religious high school graduates before their enlistment, to encourage them to choose military service over national service.
In 2019 it was reported that the IDF had undertaken to recruit 40% of the religious young women within three years. Since then, the IDF has been working on a variety of activities to increase the percentage of religious women who serve. One of the ways is the Meshartot B’Emuna (Serving with Faith) program, which was established in 2002 by Aluma, the Ministry of Defense, and the IDF. The program works closely with Meitav, a military unit created in May 2006 to recruit young men and women to the IDF. In addition to organizing conferences for religious girls, Aluma also holds activities in schools and initiates home classes and seminars for girls who are debating whether to serve in the IDF or in the national service.
One such Aluma event, last October, drew 1,300 young women who graduated from the state religious school system. According to Kippa, the IDF tried to persuade the girls to serve in a variety of combat roles and posted religious female soldiers who serve in combat roles at some of the information stands. The religious female warriors tried to convince the young women to also enlist in combat roles such as the Border Protection System (Caracal), rescue and first aid units, the Sky Rider unit, and other combat positions.
The event also involved an embarrassing glitch, when Tzohar Chairman Rabbi David Stav arrived to congratulate the women on their desire to contribute and serve but was not at all aware of the fact that religious girls he congratulated had been offered combat roles. Rabbi Stav told Kipa he strongly opposed combat service for women and stressed that “if it turns out that my visit is being used for other purposes, which are not acceptable to me and especially to Halakhah, I will certainly not take part in such an event.”